As cars have become more complicated, so have the means to test them. See, it can be very difficult to test a lot of things on an automobile; so what we’re relying on more than ever are heat signatures under the hood or just about any place on the car.

One of the most basic ones comes from an infrared thermometer, such as we have here. This, you simply squeeze it, and aim the little red laser dot at what you want to check the temperature on. And it displays the temperature right on the screen of the thermometer; works good for a lot of things. We especially like it for checking for a dead cylinder, or a cylinder that’s not firing; if the engine’s running real rough or flashing a check engine light and all that. Well we can aim this at each one of the exhaust ports, where the exhaust comes out of the head; the cold one is the dead cylinder. And that’s where we begin our specific testing.

But, we can go a lot further. This is a thermal imager. These came from Fluke, and they’re actually pretty clever. What they do, is they take a picture of the thing you want to check, and the picture comes out in varying colors. The variance in color tells you the temperature of that particular device. So you look at whatever it is that you’re checking the temperature of, and you get the picture. And by knowing what you’re looking at, as far as the colors are concerned, you can tell where a particular problem is. We found this very beneficial for finding high resistance in electrical connections around fuses, in fuse panels. Because the fuse will show hotter than the ones around it. So it’s very clever. It works very well, and it can be used for all sorts of things: electrical problems especially, but also air conditioning, cooling systems, air leaks, lots of different things.

They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and prices, depending on what the shop may need. So if you have a difficult to diagnose problem, you might want to ask your technician if they have a thermal imager. And if they do, well that may be the answer to your problem without spending a ton of money. And if you have a question or comment, drop me a line. Right here, at MotorWeek.